All sports are based on one simple concept: winning. Those who win consistently are always paid more because they offer way more value to their employers. When it comes to the fast-paced sport of Formula 1 racing, a good barometer for for a driver's success is to look at how many laps they have led over the course of a given season. If you have led lots of laps, odds are you are finishing in the points on a consistent basis. This helps not only your own position in the standings, but the position of your team. Successful constructors like Mercedes and Ferrari pay top dollar to their drivers, but exactly how much value do they get for what they're paying?
This top 10 list will comprise the biggest bargains on the F1 circuit by taking drivers' yearly salaries in U.S. dollars and dividing them by the amount of laps they have spent in first place this season. No, strictly speaking this doesn't have anything to do with winning races or championships, but it does tell you something about how much money elite drivers are making in relation to their performance on the track. It also puts into perspective the fact that F1, like any sport, involves a certain amount of gambling when it comes to how much teams pay for the best of the best. On this list you will find some drivers who rank among the highest-paid on the circuit and others who come nowhere close to that. Regardless, these are the 10 drivers who are paid the least for each lap they led in 2013.
10 Fernando Alonso - Ferrari - $309,353 Per Lap Lead
Ferrari is used to being the most dominant team on the circuit. With past drivers like Michael Schumacher and John Surtees, Ferrari expects a certain level of greatness from their pilots and their cars. When Ferrari signed Fernando Alonso to replace Kimi Raikonnen in 2009, they expected big things from the already two-time champion. Alonso began his career with Renault, where he won two consecutive Championships in 2005 and 2006. He moved onto McLaren in 2007, but after a turbulent year, they both agreed to rescind his contract. He would resign with Renault for 2 years with moderate results, and then moved to Ferrari in 2010. He is tied for the highest-paid racer along with Lewis Hamilton (who is not on this list), making a huge salary of around $27.5 million per year. Alonso has been more effective than Hamilton this year, but has had his struggles. He managed to finish second on a few occasions, but only won two races as compared to Sebastian Vettel's 13. In his four years with Ferrari, he has finished second in the championship three times and holds the record for most overall Championship points over a career. Alonso has spent 89 laps in the lead this season.
9 Mark Webber - Red Bull Racing - $199,536 Per Lap Lead
Mark Webber is a veteran on the F1 circuit and running mate to the current winner, Sebastian Vettel. He began his career at KL Minardi Asiatech for one year before moving on to drive for the now defunct Jaguar team. His time at Jaguar (pronounced "Jag-you-are" by all true racing enthusiasts) was lackluster, seeing him finish in 10th and 13th place in his two years with the team. Webber then moved on to the Williams F1 Team, for the next two years, but the results were not much better, with a 10th and 14th place finish. He then hitched his wagon to the relatively new team of Red Bull Racing and he has been with them ever since. Vettel joined the team one year after, and the results began to show. They finished second in the Constructor's championship in 2009 and have won four straight since then, with Vettel taking home first place in the Driver's Championship all four of those years. Webber retired at the end of the 2013 season, but has been a solid partner to the award-winning Vettel, well worth his salary of approximately $13.75 million (which was the sixth highest in F1). If they were paying him solely per laps led, he would be receiving $199,536 for each of the 69 laps he has spent leading the pack this season.
8 Paul di Resta - Force India F1 - $183,592 Per Lap Lead
This British racer is a relative newcomer to the F1 circuit and has spent his four years on the scene at Force India F1. The team was created in 1998 after they bought the rights to Spyker F1 and renamed it. Paul Di Resta became a full-time racer for the company in 2011 after being the test driver in 2010, and has partnered with both Adrian Sutil and Nico Hulkenberg during his time on the team. He has yet to win a race in F1 and had a difficult end to the season in 2013 with five consecutive retirements. Di Resta will be looking for a new team for 2014 as he has not been retained by Force India F1. He commanded a salary of approximately $550,000 in 2013; not bad considering he led only three laps the whole season.
7 Nico Hulkenberg - Sauber - $172,089 Per Lap Lead
The driver that will be replacing the last entrant on this list at for Force India F1 in 2014, is also a relative newcomer to the F1 circuit. Nico Hulkenberg began his F1 career with Williams where he only spent one year and finished in 14th place. He quickly moved on to Force India F1 to partner with Paul di Resta, outperforming his partner during in his two years there, and moved to Sauber for 2013. Hulkenberg had the best season of his career at Sauber finishing in 10th place, before announcing he'd be moving back to Force India F1 to replace his former teammate and partner up with Sergio Perez. He is the 10th highest-paid racer in F1 at $1.375 million and would be paid $172,089 for each of his eight laps lead this season.
6 Nico Rosberg - Mercedes - $145,621 Per Lap Lead
This young German driver has been a consistent performer on the F1 circuit for the last few years. Nico Rosberg began his career at Williams F1 in 2006 and spent the next four years there with his best finish coming last year in 7th place. He decided to move on to Mercedes in 2010, but barely stepped into the spotlight before Michael Schumacher announced his return, becoming Rosberg's partner for the 2010 season. Schmacher would be his partner for three years, but Rosberg outperformed him in each of those years, even winning a race in 2012. In 2013, he was once again partnered with a huge name in Lewis Hamiltion. Despite that, Rosberg won two races this season (as compared to Hamiliton's single victory) and finished in sixth place. He is the fifth-highest-paid racer in F1 at approximately $15 million per season. Rosberg spent 104 laps in first place in 2013.
5 Esteban Gutierrez - Sauber - $137,718 Per Lap Lead
2013 was Esteban Gutierrez's first full season on the F1 circuit after spending 2012 as Sauber's test driver. The Mexican racer was partnered with Nico Hulkenberg and had some decent displays in his first year. He managed to lead two laps in Spain and scored his first points finishing seventh in Japan. Since Adrian Sutil has moved to Sauber for 2014, Gutierrez will need to fight for his spot with Russian teenager Sergey Sirotkin. He was the second-lowest-paid racer in F1 for 2013 with a salary of approximately $275,000.
4 Kimi Raikkonen - Lotus F1 Team - $100,740 Per Lap Lead
Kimi Raikkonen is a veteran of the F1 circuit and a one-time winner of the Driver's Championship in 2007. He began his career with Sauber for one year before impressing McLaren enough for the team to pick him up to replace the retiring legendary Finish racer, Mika Hakkinen. Raikkonen excelled in his five years with McLaren, finishing second in the Driver's Championship twice. He then moved on to replace another legend in Michael Schmuacher at Ferrari and rewarded their faith by winning the Driver's Championship in his first year with the team. In 2010, Raikkonen decided to leave F1 and tried his hand at NASCAR and Rally Racing, before deciding to come back for the 2012 season with Lotus F1. He has performed well for the new team, finishing third and fifth over the last two years. He's the eighth-highest-paid driver at around $4.1 million per season and would be be paid $100,740 for each of his 41 laps lead.
3 Adrian Sutil - Force India F1 - $62,587 Per Lap Lead
This young German driver has spent his entire career with the Force India F1 team and is slowly improving on his performances. Adrian Sutil began at Spyker F1 for one year before the team became Force India F1 and decided to retain him. He's had a revolving door of partners with Force India as the team continues looking for the right mix to compete at the F1 level. Sutil began his career partnered with Christijan Albers, then saw Giancarlo Fisichella, Vitantonioi Liuzzi and Paul di Resta as teammates, and will be partnered with Nico Hulkenberg next season. Sutil lost a year of racing in 2012 when he was convicted of cutting Lotus F1 team owner Eric Lux's neck with a champagne bottle, and served 18 months in jail. The Force India F1 team welcomed him back in 2012 and he finished 13th in the standings. Sutil is the 16th-highest-paid racer on the circuit at approximately $688,000 and would be paid $62,587 for each of his 11 laps lead this year, making him the third-largest bargain in F1.
2 Romain Grosjean - Lotus F1 Team - $38,242 Per Lap Lead
The young French racer is similar to his partner Kimi Raikkonen in that they both left F1 and chose to come back with the new Lotus Team. Romain Grosjean began his F1 career with Renault in 2009. He then lost his seat, but came back as a test driver for Lotus Renault in 2011. When the team was re-branded as Lotus F1, he was given a permanent position with the team and has not disappointed at all. Grosjean has finished 8th and 7th over his two years next to his skilled partner Raikkonen. He is currently the 10th-highest-paid racer in Formula 1 with a salary of $1.375 million and would represent a huge bargain for the team with 36 laps led at $38,242 per lap.
1 Sebastian Vettel - Red Bull Racing - $24,152 Per Lap Lead
There is nothing at all surprising about this entry on the list. Sebastian Vettel absolutely demolished the competition in the 2013 season and even if he made the highest salary in F1, he still would have finished number one on this list. Vettell began his career at BMW Sauber as a test driver in 2006, but impressed quickly and was scooped up mid-season by Toro Rosso to replace Scott Speed. In 2009, he moved on to Red Bull Racing to replace David Coulthard and hasn't looked back since. He finished second in his first year and has won four straight Driver's Championships. The German driver dominated in 2013 leading 684 laps which is 570 more than runner up Nico Rosberg's 104. He is only the fourth-highest-paid F1 driver at approximately $16.5 million per year and is worth every cent and more for Red Bull Racing, as they paid him only $24,152 for ever lap he led in 2013.
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